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Maine Historical Society



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Maine Historical Leads Effort to Keep Banners in Maine

September 6, 2010

Portland, ME – Maine Historical Society (MHS) is pleased to announce that on August 26 a consortium of Maine museums led by MHS prevailed at auction and was able to keep an extremely important historic collection in Maine and accessible to the public.

The collection of 17 linen banners was created by members of the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association in 1841 as part of a lavish celebration of skilled craftsmen held in Portland. The banners are significant for many reasons. Each is a unique, beautiful work of art in its own right, and each represents and honors a different trade—ranging from blacksmiths to shipwrights to furniture makers. Collectively, they provide a window into the vibrant social, political, and artistic life of workingmen in Portland in the mid-19th century.

The leadership of and collaboration between museums throughout this process—including the Portland Museum of Art, Maine State Museum, Maine Maritime Museum, and museums of Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby colleges—was remarkable, as was the willingness of donors—including L.L. Bean, the Libra Foundation, Diana and Linda Bean, Elsie Viles, and Chris Livesay—to quickly mobilize.

“The focus, hard work, and unselfish generosity of the cooperating museums was unprecedented in my experience,” said Richard D’Abate, Executive Director of the Maine Historical Society. “I think we owe that to our common recognition that the banners were one of the state’s true artistic and historical treasures. They had to be saved.”

Thomas Denenberg, Portland Museum of Art Chief Curator, added: “These banners are important symbols of community and it was key that we keep them together and in Maine.”

The effort to save the collection was also supported by the Smithsonian Institution who has long been interested in the banners’ long-term preservation. “The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History was glad to support the effort to keep together this important collection of artisan banners. The beautifully illustrated banners recall the ideals of a community based on values of productive citizenship and industry. They are a true national treasure,” said Harry Rubenstein, chair of the museum’s Division of Political History. “I can think of no better result than having them preserved and remain in the state. We look forward to future collaboration with the Maine Historical Society and other consortium partners.”

The collection was purchased for $125,350 and will be owned by and stored at MHS. The consortium of museums that worked together to purchase the banners is currently assessing the condition of the banners, conservation needs, and opportunities for exhibitions.

More information about the collection and an exhibit on the Maine Memory Network will be available soon.

For More Information about the Historic Banners: Richard D’Abate, Executive Director; 774-1822, Maine Historical Society 489 Congress Street Portland, ME 04101 207-774-1822;

For more information:

Maine Historical Society
489 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101

Maine Historical Society preserves and shares Maine's story to enrich life in contemporary Maine.